Vonne’s Shelf: All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

All the Birds in the Sky
by Charlie Jane Anders

This is perhaps the most wondrous read I’ve had this year. Before we get to all that, though, let’s organize ourselves. First, parental advisories; then a short non-spoiler reivew; and finally, my unabashed awe with this novel and the reasons for it.

Parental Advisories:
Profanity: Yes, the f-bomb is very nearly pervasive.
Violence: Some, and it can be gruesome, but the author doesn’t glorify this. Instead, it haunts the characters, so that’s a good thing.
Sex / Nudity: Some nudity, but that’s not a big deal. There is some sex talk, and then the zaniest, somewhat graphic, sex scene I’ve ever read.
So: Parents, read this first and then decide if it is right for your younglings. You will not regret reading it yourself, but may vacillate between your love for this novel and your desire for your family to enjoy it, pitted against the hard reality that this is definitely an adult novel.

Spoiler Free Summary:
Patricia and Laurence are both eight-graders in school; both are part of dysfunctional families; both are different from their peer group and stand aloof, awkward, and friendless. Then they meet each other. Patricia is into magic and can talk to animals, and will ultimately become a witch. Laurence is a technological genius and will ultimately design and build some super scary tech.

As adults, they will meet again. Only this time it might be to do battle.

This is a clash of science and fantasy. Except for the twist: these two characters find comfort and peace in each other’s company, and will ultimately realize the love they have for each other. So, will the collision of science with magic destroy them, their relationship, or will they find harmony within themselves and this Earth? Who will win?

Meanwhile, the Earth has gone wonky with environmental changes and political contention, and the destruction of all mankind looms. Can these two save it?

Read it and find out. Caution: don’t rush through it, especially the last 40 pages. Take your time, savor it, meditate over it, relish the details along the way.

Why I love this book:
There is one word that keeps bouncing around my brain: intimacy. This is an intimate book. I have never felt this connected and intimate with any other fictional characters in my memory. It is not intimacy with the author, no, it is just that the author finds the little things that root relationships and shows them to us, drawing us into this world.

It is, in turn, whimsical, funny, sad, heart breaking, exciting, compelling and satisfying.

Every once in a while, a novel comes along that the reader can sense it will become an instant classic. I felt that way when reading Vernor Vinge’s “Rainbow’s End,” which won the Hugo the year it published. And I felt that again reading this novel. If there had been less profanity and slightly less explicit sex, then this one would become part of every school curriculums must read syllabus. As it is, it will still — in my opinion — become a classic of the genre.

Charlie Jane Anders is the editor of the ubiquitus io9 website that delves deeply into all things science fiction and fantasy. It is not her first novel, but is easily one of the most important novels to come along in a while.

In the current contentious state of our planet, this novel reminds us that there is peace and harmony between opposites; that everyone can cooperate for the greater good; that the world can be a better place if we leave our petty differences behind and respect, accept, and be grateful for each other’s contribution to civilization.

Do yourself a favor: read this. You won’t regret it.

2 February 2017
VA

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